Storytime: Rebecca Rule’s new picture book proves rhyming isn’t everything
First of all, I would like to thank Rebecca Rule for not rhyming. Too many newbie picture book authors are of the opinion that the only way to entertain children is in sing-songy poetry, often of the slapdash, head-scratching variety. You know the typ
Rebecca Rule’s new picture book, “The Iciest, Diciest, Scariest Sled Ride Ever!,” proves a book can entertain children withour the sing-songy, slapdash poetry one usually finds within the genre.
Rebecca Rule’s new picture book, “The Iciest, Diciest, Scariest Sled Ride Ever!,” proves a book can entertain children without the sing-songy, slapdash poetry one usually finds within the genre.
First of all, I would like to thank Rebecca Rule for not rhyming. Too many newbie picture book authors are of the opinion that the only way to entertain children is in sing-songy poetry, often of the slapdash, head-scratching variety. You know the type I’m talking about, the type where all other considerations – syntax, logic, style – are subverted to the dictates of rhyme.
Other writers manage to avoid this pitfall (and I’m not saying all rhyming books are bad, just that we can’t all be Dr. Suess), only to crack open enough nonsense and hyperbole to make us all a little queasy. I’m a fan of nonsense when it’s done well, and anyone inclined to criticize hyperbole ought to first take a look at Laura Numeroff’s net worth, but like rhyming verse, over-the-top goofiness has its limitations.
So it’s nice to see Rule bring her usual wry, folksy tone to her first children’s book, The Iciest, Diciest, Scariest Sled Ride Ever! Maybe it was the pairing of “iciest” and “diciest” in the title that had me expecting rhyme, or maybe it was the abundance of such books that I come across in this job (as my predecessor in this gig, Rule probably read her fair share of them herself), but I was pleasantly surprised to open the first page and find no trace of the overused device.
What I did find inside is something most kids are longing for right about now: Snow! And plenty of it. Rule’s story, coupled with jovial illustrations by Connecticut artist Jennifer Thermes, celebrates the timeless thrill of a snow-covered hill (sheesh, now I’m rhyming): the exhilaration of creating your own adventure, the anticipation of scaling the steep expanse, the all-out, breakneck, helter-skelter blast of jumping on the sled and letting it carry you where it will. Steering a sled, as anyone who’s ever tried it will attest, is a bit like walking a cat.
In this story, the sled is an enormous old-fashioned runner sled that Rule calls a Travis sled. It’s February vacation, and this New England town is encrusted with a slick layer of snow – so slick the kids who run out into their yards to play can barely stay on their feet.
They go looking for a perfect hill, and then one of them remembers the old homemade sled she’s seen in her grandfather’s barn. Her grandfather has told stories about a sledding route he and his friends used to take that started at his house and took him practically all the way through town.
The kids decide it’s time to take a page from history.
If you’ve ever heard Rule in person – and if you’ve lived in New Hampshire any amount of time, chances are good that you have – you can picture her narrating the adventure that unfolds.
Rule peppers the plainspoken tale with picturesque details and sparkly images. She describes the view from the top of the hill: “We saw the racing horse weathervane on the roof of Grandpa Bud’s barn.”
Once aboard the sled, “Robert buried his runny nose in my back.”
And gliding down the field, “The wind whipped our screams and laughter like a beautiful scarf trailing wildly behind.”
It’s a story that – not surprisingly, coming from Rule – begs to be read aloud. No sing-songy voice required.